Does Jesus Fit in My Love Life?

{Guest Post By Sarah Mebasser}

If there’s one thing about romantic relationships I wish I had understood in my teen years and early twenties, it’s this:

My life was perfectly full without it.

I wasted so many hours daydreaming about what it would be like to have a boyfriend to share all these wonderful experiences, that I seriously detracted from the experiences themselves.

It’s been said that the moments we most enjoy are also the moments we most want to share with another. We’ve all had the experience of seeing something really funny or catching an incredible sunset or a perfect mountaintop view and wishing we had someone with us to share the joy of the moment. But the mistake I now know I made was thinking that I didn’t have someone to share it with—thinking that if only my perfect soulmate were with me, the moment would be that much more perfect. But what I know now is that I did have my perfect soulmate with me. And He was taking just as much joy in the scenery or the joke as I was.

Having been married for almost thirteen years now, I can say that laughing with my husband and sharing amazing sunsets and views with him has been lovely and fun and sweet. But as much as I love being with my husband, he still doesn’t meet that deep ache of loneliness that I felt when I was single and longing for a romantic relationship.

I know now that he was never meant to.

does jesus fit in my love life

The desire we feel inside for romance and belonging and the perfect communion of our soul with another—that desire can never ever be met by another human being.

This was a hard and heart-breaking realization for me. I believed that if my husband and I just worked hard enough at our marriage—that if we communicated well enough and understood one another’s love languages and sacrificed for one another—that we would find the fulfillment that everyone else seemed to be missing. But eventually I had to face the hard fact that no matter how many hours we spent talking and trying to understand one another, our relationship would never be able to fill the void in our souls.

Imagine how discouraging that was—I’d been waiting for years for the perfect man to come along and make all my fairy tale dreams come true, but here he was and it still wasn’t enough. I questioned if there was something wrong with me that made me perpetually dissatisfied. And I questioned if there was something wrong with him—if I’d chosen the wrong man, or if I should have waited till I was older, or if I should have never gotten married at all.

But after a few years of wading through these disappointments, I got a glimpse of hope. I slowly started to become aware that there was someone in my life who loved me the way I wanted (and needed) to be loved. Someone who enjoyed the things I enjoyed and laughed at the same things I did and just delighted in being together. And to my surprise, it was Jesus.

I had known him as a guide, a rescuer, a voice of wisdom. But I had not known him as the lover of my soul. I had not known how sweet life could be when I shared every moment with him—whether watching the stars overhead or walking the aisles at Target. I had forgotten that I ever wanted that kind of intimacy with someone—I’d buried it under busyness and responsibilities and relationships that were “good enough.”

But it wasn’t good enough. Not really. Not for me, and definitely not for Him.

So he reminded me that I had once longed for a perfect relationship with a perfect soulmate. And He was that soulmate.

I’m a better wife and mother and friend for realizing it. And I’m happy for the first time in a very long time. And I wish and pray that you may find this true fulfillment as well—not in a boyfriend or a girlfriend or a fiancée or a spouse or even a best friend. But in the One who loves your soul to its very depths and knows your longings and desires to fulfill every last one of them.

“You are my Lord; I have no good besides You….You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:2, 11

 

Sarah lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where she works as a part-time writer and full-time mother.  She is a Messianic Jew who loves to explore her thoughts about God, life, and truth on her blog.

What To Do When Your Friends Move Away

{Guest Post by Mark Casper}

 Like most people, I hate goodbyes.

Unfortunately, this past summer my wife and I had to say goodbye to several of our closest friends, all of whom were moving to other cities for new jobs and opportunities. It was particularly bittersweet for us, since our community was just beginning to come together in a really wonderful way.

What we experienced is not uncommon. Studies have shown that a person living in the U.S. will move close to 12 times in his/her lifetime. Especially for those of us who live in large, transient cities, losing friends is inevitable. So how do we deal with this issue, practically and biblically?

Feel the Freedom to Mourn and Lament

First off, it’s a deeply sad and peculiar thing when your community starts to move away. On one hand it’s expected (even my wife and I don’t see ourselves living in our current city long-term), but on the other hand it can catch you off guard.

When I first heard the news of our friends’ move I felt hurt, confused, and angry–both with our friends and with God. I felt as if an unspoken contract had been breached.

What? You’re leaving? But how could you?

God, why are you taking these friends away from me?

Laments and frustrations such as these course through the pages of the Bible. Just ask Job (Job 1:20-22) or the Psalmist (Psalm 13:1-2). It’s ok to mourn your friends leaving. It’s ok to be frustrated with God about it. It’s just not ok or healthy to stay there.

Preach the Gospel to Yourself

As the Psalmist does in Psalm 13, we must temper our laments (“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”) with reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness (“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”). We need preach to ourselves the truth of God’s sovereignty, mercy, and gospel of grace.

When my wife and I first moved to our current city, we only knew one person. Over time, God provided us with a wonderfully rich community. It was a pure gift from him. He did it once–do we not believe he can do it again?

Trust the Father’s Pruning

Let’s be honest: if we were writing our own stories, most of us would not include isolation, loneliness, or suffering (aka the part where our close friends move away). But Jesus tells us that the Father prunes those he loves, in order to make them more fruitful (John 15:1-2).

Pruning is uncomfortable. Pruning is painful. No branch would ever volunteer to be pruned. But because of the gospel, we can trust that even in the midst of difficult situations our Father is always doing something for our good and his glory. After all, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8: 32).

Move Towards Community

After our friends moved away, I was tempted to wallow in an isolated state of self-pity. Every day I didn’t get an invitation from a friend to hang out took me deeper into the hole.

My mentor in college had a saying that has stuck with me:

“Community will never come find you. You must go find it.”

Whenever our friends move away, we must not wait for others to take their place–for they will never come. Instead, we must continually seek out and cultivate new relationships within our churches, trusting that over time a new community will form.

Hope in the Gospel

There’s a great passage from Sheldon Vanauken’s poignant memoir A Severe Mercy. In it the author finds himself in a situation that feels all too familiar for some of us: he and his wife moved to a new city for grad school, formed an unbelievably rich community of artists and intellectuals, (including a deep friendship with C.S. Lewis), and then had to move away for a job opportunity.

Before he leaves, Vanauken and Lewis have lunch at their usual spot one final time. There the great professor and writer, who played an instrumental role in Sheldon’s conversion to Christianity, makes an astounding statement. Vanauken remembers it this way:

“Lewis said that he hoped Davy and I would come back to England soon, for we mustn’t get out of touch.

‘At all events,’ he said with a cheerful grin, ‘we’ll certainly meet again, here–or there.’

Then it was time to go, and we drained our mugs. When we emerged onto the busy high with the traffic streaming past, we shook hands, and he said ‘I shan’t say goodbye. We will meet again.’

Then he plunged into the traffic. I stood there watching him. When he reached the payment on the other side, he turned around as though he knew somehow that I would still be standing there in front of the Eastgate. Then he raised his voice in a great roar that easily overcame the noise of the cars and buses. Heads turned and at least one car swerved.

‘Besides,’ he bellowed with a great grin, ‘Christians NEVER say goodbye!’”

The gospel gives us hope that we will not only be reunited with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 8:11), we’ll also be united with God himself (Rev. 21:1-4). Therefore, let us weep when our friends leave, for on this side of heaven, all good things must come to an end. But let us not say goodbye, for a day is coming when we will all sit down at the table of our King together.

 

mark casper

 

Mark Casper is a writer and graphic designer who lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife. Find him online at markrobertcasper.com and on Twitter here.

 

What to Do When God Leads You Through the Wilderness

{By Lindsay Chilton}

When we have seasons of not knowing where God is leading us we learn to just survive. But I think we’re supposed to also live in the unknown, when He has us there.

Wilderness looks different for many people.

For Moses, it was exile in the desert for 40 years. For Joseph, it was slavery and imprisonment in Egypt. For John, it was literally going into the desert wilderness and surviving on locusts. Although these men had different kinds of wilderness they all had similarities.

First, the wilderness is uncomfortable. No one looks at the middle of the desert and thinks “yeah, this is where I want to build my vacation home”. Moses had gone from living in an Egyptian palace to surviving with the desert nomad people. All of the luxuries that he was used to had been stripped away from him and he had to learn to survive as a shepard. Joseph had been the youngest child of Jacob. His father presented him with a beautiful coat, he was Jacob’s favorite, and he did not have to work the fields with his brothers. This all was taken away when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. He worked hard, had an evil woman tell lies about him, and ended up unjustly imprisoned in Egypt.

Second, God had His hand on all of it. He was molding all of these men for a greater purpose that He had already planned. Moses had to learn to be a leader, Joseph had to be humbled, John was being prepared to speak of the coming Messiah. These men also trusted The Lord throughout all of this.

When you’re in the middle of the wilderness you can’t see what God is doing with you.

when God leads you through the wilderness

In fact, a lot of the time you might find yourself questioning God and what He’s doing with you.

Know that He’s not done with you yet. In fact, the opposite is happening because He’s molding you to become the person that He can use. He uses the wilderness to bring us closer to Him. When we’re wandering around in the desert with what seems like no direction or we feel stuck, we have a tendency to realize just how much we need to rely on God.

The wilderness isn’t comfortable and we’re not supposed to be content with staying there. Many times we feel restless and want God to move us on so that we can feel fulfilled or go and see new surroundings. This is not how He works. He has a very specific plan for every single person, but He doesn’t just throw us all out to go complete something for Him with no preparation.

He trains us and our hearts for our path.

People also tend to assume that the wilderness time isn’t part of the plan and is a spiritual detour when, in fact, it’s one of the key parts to serving The Lord effectively. I’ve been guilty of this before, definitely. I’ve assumed that little seasons of wilderness or waiting were somehow a “mistake” or a punishment when, in reality, they were preparing me for something that I could not have done without those seasons of wilderness and waiting.

Another key attribute of the wilderness is the blindness. It’s hard to see how The Lord is going to use some of our circumstances and we try to make sense of everything that He’s doing. But, here’s the thing, He doesn’t expect us to understand all of His ways or the ways that He’s dealing with you and your heart. This is the hardest thing to remember because a lot of the time I expect Him to explain Himself to me. But He doesn’t have to and I have to be content with that knowledge and know that He will work it all together for His good. This fact isn’t  easy to cope with and I don’t always like it (in fact, I rarely like it). But, praise the Lord, I’m not in control and He knows exactly what He’s preparing our hearts for. And it’ll be better than we could have ever imagined.

So, I’m going to leave y’all with this. When you’re in the wilderness and you don’t know where you’re going and the path is hazy, embrace the wilderness. Trust that our Lord is molding us for a purpose that He has in store for us even though we cannot understand it in the middle of the desert.

 

Stop Worrying So Much About Making a Big Impact

{By Ellery Sadler via Relevant Magazine}

“She is so successful.” “He is on a path and going somewhere.” “Isn’t it amazing how she’s so purposeful and productive?”

People talk about intentional living like it is the epitome of Christianity, like success in the eyes of our peers is the goal. “Don’t waste time.” “Get busy.” “Do good.”

But Jesus cares so much more about our heart for Him than our work for Him. True that faith without works is dead, but works without faith are useless. And where does faith come from? How does it grow?

In the soil of empty hours, as much as in busy ones. Faith grows with time.

Slowing Down

In a culture obsessed with wasting time as quickly as possible, it’s a foreign idea for us to waste time slowly and purposefully. But I think purposefully wasted time isn’t actually wasted. Our culture has become a strange juxtaposition of hundreds of minutes wasted browsing Facebook and no minutes wasted letting our thoughts wander.

[SEE MORE at RELEVANT MAGAZINE]

What Scrubbing Bathrooms for a Month Taught Me About God

{By Ellery Sadler}

No one told me loving Jesus would mean cleaning bathrooms.

This summer I spent a month at a Young Life camp in Virginia. It was one of the best – and hardest – months of my life. Dropped off in a group of about fifty people from across the country, and I didn’t know a single soul. Within a week though, this group of strangers became a team of best friends.

what cleaning bathrooms taught me about God

Pictured Above: The Best People in the World

I signed up to help at the crafts (I mean, how hard can making bracelets for a month be, right?) but ended up doing a lot of other things as well. (And made so many bracelets my hands got blisters.) One of our jobs was, every morning, to go from cabin to cabin cleaning the campers’ bathrooms. It was hard work and, with no air conditioning in August, hot. But it taught me more about loving Jesus and what it really means to be a Christian than I ever thought it would.

1. Loving Jesus Is Messy

Sometimes, in the grand old US of A it’s easy for Christianity to be so sterile, so convenient. If you can’t make it to church, or don’t feel like it, just click a button and you can listen to the podcast. If you don’t like the Bible study you’re doing, just browse Amazon and a new one will be at your doorstep in two days or less. But loving Jesus is messy. It isn’t always convenient. It sometimes requires getting up at five o’clock in the morning. It sometimes means saying no to good things in order to say yes to the best things. It sometimes means scrubbing throw-up of bathroom walls (like a couple summer staffers had to do).

2.  You Serve Jesus First With Your Attitude

I can’t say I was thrilled with the whole bathroom cleaning job. To be honest, I basically hated it for the first week. When we were heading out to our different cabins, I found myself thinking ‘I hate cleaning. I can’t believe I’m doing this for free. I can’t believe they get fifty people to sign up for this!’ It was so easy to commiserate, to complain, to mumble about all the other more fun things people do in the summer. I kept thinking to myself ‘Seriously, I gave up going to the beach so I could clean bathrooms?’

Yeah, you did. Because I gave up My life, so that you could.

My love for you led Me to a cross, and your love for Me lead you here. 

Wow. Attitude readjustment. I made a commitment that night that the next day I would not complain. Not a single complaining word or sigh would come out of my mouth. It would be a test, to see how much my words really impacted how I felt. And so I didn’t complain the next day. And it was one of the best days of camp. Not because the bathrooms were any easier or it was any cooler outside or the hours were any shorter, but because in my mind all I could see was Jesus. Jesus dying, so that I could live.

How could I possibly complain about cleaning bathrooms, if it meant that every week, five hundred kids, would get to hear about Him?

3. Being a Christian Isn’t Glamorous

I think sometimes we believe in a glam-gospel.

I don’t know where the idea of a glam-gospel came from, but it isn’t biblically sound. Glamping might be fun, but Christians are called to rough it. Life includes a lot of mosquitos and mud and cuts and bruises. Being the next Mother Teresa might sound great, but in actuality her life wasn’t all that thrilling. She washed dirty feet. She took care of the sick, the dying, the unwanted. It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t glamorous.

I so often have this vision that serving Jesus is going to be something big and grand. Something that goes down in the heavenly history books with a gold star next to my name. But scrubbing bathrooms made me change my mind. I think the proverbial gold stars often go to people no one has ever heard of. Being a Christian means being faithful to love people like Jesus does. Loving them when they don’t notice. Loving them even if you never meet them. Wiping mirrors and cleaning showers again and again and again.

4. God’s Love Is Big Enough for the Little Things

Sometimes I wonder if my prayers annoy God because they are for such little things. Sometimes I feel like my serving Him isn’t good enough. I didn’t save the world, I just made a bracelet with a braces-wearing middle schooler.

But to God, that middle schooler is the world. 

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to realize, but God loves details. He loves little things – like rain drops and loaves of bread and children and tiny, random acts of service done in His name. No smile is too small. No job is too unimportant. No word of kindness is too simple. God’s love is big enough to create an entire universe, to create billions of people. But it’s also big enough to care about the little things.

Such a Time Conference

{By Samantha Roose}

Every day you live and every decision you make is an investment.  It’s an investment in fantasy stock or an investment in eternal stock.

such a time conference

The books you read, the movies you watch, the friends you hang out with, the jobs you have, and the education you pursue are all investments.  Which stock are you investing in?

That’s what this conference is about: investing today.  Living “for such a time as this,” because “someday when…” doesn’t exist.  Learning to live today well, because today is what God has given us use for His glory and the only alternative is a life of regrets.  Your today may already include college, a career, children, or ministry.  For some of us those are still on the way.  But regardless of what your today looks like it’s what you and I have been given to live for God’s glory.  Single or married, career or college, today is your “such a time.”

Such A Time conference is a three-day women’s event exploring what it means to live with passion, vision, and purpose for the glory of God.  Hear from speakers as they share their personal journey of living for “such a time.”  Complete with a fashion show, worship, small group, and journal making it’s three life-changing days.

In short “Such A Time” is an event you don’t want to miss, because if you do you just might miss your “Such A Time.”

Space is limited so register today! You can find more info on our Facebook page here.

YOU’RE INVITED

What: Such A Time conference is a three-day event for women exploring what it means to live with passion, vision, and purpose for the glory of God.  Hear from speakers as they share their personal journey of living for “such a time.”  Complete with a fashion show, worship, small group, and journal making it’s three life-changing days hosted by Samantha Roose.

When: January 7-9, 2016

Where: Williamsburg Christian Retreat Center (In Williamsburg, VA.)

Who: Women 14 and up, Moms included!

Registration: Space is limited, send in your registration and $45 to save your spot!

such a time conference

 

Is Loving My Body a Spiritual Issue?

{Guest Post Kati Rae}

“Love given is courage gained.”

I have recently discovered insecurities I thought I ‘dealt with’ a long time ago are still influencing my actions. It turns out, I’m just as insecure as I was ten months ago, it just looks differently today. No longer eroding my physical appearance taking the form of an eating disorder, my insecurities have chosen to burrow themselves into the deepest parts of my being and make their way known from the inside out.

My lack of love for myself is based on my lack of being ‘perfect.’ Somewhere in the past twenty-one years (age six sounds about right) I let man define a state of being only God can define- the definition of it being immeasurable as He is- and only the Trinity can possess. Basically put: I didn’t love myself, so I became whomever it was I believed people would love. A complete give and take, this lifestyle became an addiction: I was an addict shamelessly selling everything I had to get a hit of ‘glory.’

My spirit was decaying.

I read somewhere that learning to accept yourself takes an abundance of “self-love” and “self-care.” Like “standing-bare-naked-in-front-of-a-mirror-and-complimenting-yourself” kind of self-love. The kind of stuff that bully victims in Lifetime movies do. The radical stuff.

In the past fifteen years, I have tried everything but the radical stuff, and although it sounded like a preteen’s manifesto, I was desperate. At twenty-one years old, I’ve tasted and seen glimpses of a life that I dream of enjoying every single day- not just on days that I’m feeling thin or desirable or perfect. What did I have to lose?

So I found myself in front of a mirror: pale, raw, and real.

Typically at a time like this, I diverted my eyes from my reflection. Ironically enough, I praise God’s creative hands for carefully carved canyons, and the delicate tenderness felt in flower petals, the mysteries hidden in the night sky, and the infinite watercolors of sunrises and sunsets.

Yet with the same breath, I curse His creativity when I’m not a copy of a copy of a copy of every airbrushed girl I see a photo of.

God, I need(ed) courage to love myself the way You love me. I need(ed) courage to walk forward in Gethsemane and up the hill of Calvary. I need(ed) courage to die to myself the same way that You died for me.

Inhale; exhale. I prayed through waiting. Eyes closed, I put away the claws and asked for gentle, strong hands; scarred hands courageous enough to love through pain; and skilled in creating and restoring. Hands that could help me build a body I could love: The Carpenter’s hands.

They came slowly but faithfully. He helped me build strong arms to embrace and serve my neighbors. He crafted a rib cage wide enough to protect a pair of lungs to sing and breathe in emerald Oregon pines. He tenderly built a soft tummy able to produce deep belly laughs and hold ice cream, something that was made to confidently wear scars telling a remarkable story of redemption.

I am not naive; I know it will take time. I know there will be days I forget, but that’s all it will be – a day.

Psalm 139 says I have been “knit” together. Much more than simply being spoken into existence like the rest of creation, The Lord, in His dangerous untamed glory, “knit” me together. With His breath, He shared His wild holy magnificence with me, and I want to set fire to those wild holy fibers and let them consume me and illuminate the world around me.

“Love given is courage gained.” The courage to be myself: His poiema.

 

 

katie rae insecurity body image Christian perspective

 

Kati Rae is an avid reader, poetry writer, breakfast enthusiast, and explorer of the world. She designs floral arrangements and is envious of astronauts. You can check out her blog here.

 

An Open Letter to Graduates

{By Samantha Roose}

Dear Graduate,

Congratulations on your graduation!  Truly, you are an extraordinary individual created by God, instilled with unparalleled gifts with which to do great things for His glory.  As you begin this new journey I wanted to encourage you and share a few things with you that I wish someone had told me when I graduated.

dear graduate

1) Pursuing and fulfilling God plan for your life will be difficult.

Tim Tebow said in his book, Through My Eyes, “If I didn’t work as hard as I could, then I think it would be a bit like saying, ‘God, thanks for giving me this ability, but I don’t really care about it.  I’m going to do something else, and I’m not going to work quite as hard.”  Just like Tim Tebow you need to decide without hesitation or compromise that you are going to glorify God no matter the cost and not matter the path.  The journey will be difficult but God will transform into exhilaration.

2) Pursuing and fulfilling God plan for your life will be exhilarating.

Eric Liddell said it best, “When I run I feel God’s pleasure.”  It wasn’t the hours of training that Liddell loved but the feeling of doing exactly what God called him to – that’s what made the agony of training worth it.  That’s what will make years of school, or education, or productive waiting worth it, because when you use those skills as God intended you will feel God’s pleasure.

3) Pursuing and fulfilling God plan for your life will be critical.

I love this quote from Braveheart, “Every man dies, but not every man really lives.”  The bible says that in Him we LIVE and move and have our being.  We are called to LIVE to our fullest potential for the glory of God.  Every individual on this planet truly LIVES when they fulfill the will of God for their life.  Truly living is one of the most powerful testimonies about Jesus Christ that we can share with others because there is no true life without Him.

Decide.  Commit.  Persevere.

There will be easier ways, but none as exhilarating or God glorifying.

Dancing for God’s glory,

Samantha

 

 

 

 

 

Why Tables are Sacred to Christians

{By Alexandra Presley}

“May there be singing at our table before the night is done, and old broad jokes to fling

at the stars and tell them we are men.”

– Robert Farrar Capon

Tables. They are sacred places.

Your table is a sacred place. Maybe it is your family’s table, the one you have come to for your entire life: old, sprawling, and wooden, gouged with years of loving and always crowded around with clamor. Maybe it is your own little table: brand new, and quiet, and tentative, because there are still only two mouths to do all the talking and eating above it. Maybe you don’t have enough time and your table isn’t so much for eating as it is a place for setting things down as you hurry in and out the front door.

Every table will either be neglected or beautiful depending on what you decide to do with it.

But, neglected or beautiful, it is still sacred. Remember that as you scoot in all the chairs, as you fold each napkin and put a fork at every place. Make habits and make rituals. No matter how simple, no matter how brief, no matter how loud or wild or messy, a meal at a happy table is sacred and more than sacred: it is beautiful.

Holy things happen at the table.

why christians should eat together

At the table, there are cups flowing over with mercies while enemies watch, dismayed. There is poured-out perfume on perfect feet, the scent heavy and sober in everyone’s nose. There is a rejected cripple who is made a son and given a place. There are broken halves of bread and a cup passed from hand to shaking hand. Jesus ate at tables, so many sinners’ tables – imperfect and wonderful. They called Him, begged Him, to come and eat with them, because they knew that a meal is a beautiful gift. He threw tables over, too.

And He knelt beside them while washing dirty feet. There are tables that are full of fatness, and tables that are empty and lean. Tables are where speeches are made and prayers are said, and where milk often gets spilled. A table is one of those places where a betrayal is most shocking, because you can’t help but trust the people you eat with. The table is where affection grows up into love, as food is made and meals are shared.

To sit and eat with people, brushing elbows and passing butter, is to make communion

The table is where we get filled up. This is definitely not so that we can quickly eat and quickly forget. The table is meant to be marvelous enough to pull us back, again and again, wanting more. A man once wisely said that “we were given appetites, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.”

The table is a place where we go because deep down our hearts still long, more than anything else, to taste goodness. And anyone who comes and truly tastes goodness will always hunger for more. And people with that kind of hunger can learn to make beautiful things.

The table is home. Songwriter, Josh Garrels, recently released a beautiful album about coming home, and one of his songs is called “At the Table”. In profoundly simple lyrics, he tells the glory of that place: “There will always, always be/ A place for you at my table/ Return to me.”

A place at a table means belonging. It means being wanted.

It means there is some part of life missing when you are not there. It means that, for things to be right, the chair must be filled and the plate must be set. The table is where they seat the prodigal and where he suddenly knows without a doubt that he has truly come home.

But, as nice as it sounds, it is actually not easy to sit down at a table with the people you love. It’s much easier to hurry your separate ways and gulp down your separate meals. The table takes time. It takes effort. It takes you.

The table is where we have to open up our clenched, sweaty fists, where we’re hoarding away that little lump of bitterness. And we have to wash our hands before we sit down.

Coming to the table means we must first forgive completely, so that we can look them all right in the eyes without any shame. Coming to the table means we have to stop everything else and be still, and that might be the hardest part of it all. Sitting still makes you incredibly vulnerable. The table makes you incredibly vulnerable. Sacred places have a way of doing that. But vulnerability is not a bad thing, so don’t be afraid to sit down. Come and eat. Laugh out loud and make your table good.

Make it holy. Make it great. And know, with joy, that it is strength to sit still there.

The Art of Seeing What Isn’t There

{By Austin Griesinger}

My grandfather is an interesting man. He was a millionaire before he turned 30.

the art of seeing what isn't there

I’ve been working for him for the last 6 months. He’s spent his life doing just a little bit of everything. Everything from working for his father’s roofing company when he was very young to owning his own used-furniture store (twice). He’s run a realtor firm and now owns a hotel. We just began a venture to start a tourism program in Gonzales Texas where he is also the Chair of the Republican Party. So, yeah. He’s done some stuff.

In the last 6 months I’ve tried to glean as much knowledge and information from him as I can. Throughout his life he has made and lost several fortunes.

While I love learning lessons in business from him, that hasn’t been the most impactful thing he has taught me. Learning how to make money, how to make allies politically, and how to make a name in a small town are just a few of the great things he’s taught me. That said, the one thing that really sticks out is a principal that I began to take in subconsciously that he later affirmed for me.

One industry my Grandpa is currently in is that of “real estate.” I put that in quotes because what we are actually doing is not what most people think of when they hear the words “real estate.” He has owned different warehouses and other various types of properties for many years and is constantly finding ways to make a profit off them. Either by remodeling and then selling them, renting them out “as-is”, or just letting them sit until the property value goes up.

One such project is a house that a friend of his sold to him. We are in the process of remodeling and then selling the house at a nice profit (hopefully. Fingers crossed. Pray for me.) It’s during the early stages of this process that he has taught me this valuable lesson.

The lesson of not just seeing what something is, but seeing what it can be.

The fact is the majority of people only see what is. They see their surroundings in black and white or in 2 dimensions.

Learning to “see what it can be” comes naturally to some but for most of us it has to be learned.

When he taught me this principal of seeing what can be instead of just what is, he was teaching me about old houses and how to buy cheap and sell high. While that’s a fantastic lesson to learn it’s not the ultimate lesson to be learned.

Being able to apply this principal to others is the most valuable lesson.

When it comes to other people there are two popular trains of thought.
1) You make judgements about people.
2) You don’t make judgements about people.

This is a tricky subject. Making a judgement about someone isn’t wrong! The actions we take after making those judgment are what may be wrong, even if its just in our thoughts. Every second of everyday you are making judgments about little things like how good a restaurant is or how smart a cashier is. We do it all the time subconsciously. What really matters is what we do with those judgments.

So if you don’t buy into the second train of thought which is, “all judging is wrong,” then you’re left with the second option which is making judgements about people and things. The secret is to take that first option and add on this principal of not just seeing the as-is but the can-be. On of  the greatest displays of love is to help someone become the person they dream of being. To take them from their “as-is” and push them to their “can-be” and to eventually help them see it as a “will-be.”

Society will tell you that you simply have to just accept people where they are. Don’t try to change anyone, or you’re intolerant.

As Christians its our job to spread the good news, and sometimes that good news involves breaking the bad news to people who are in sin. We have the responsibility of seeing others who are in their “as-is” and helping them towards their “can-be.” We also have to realize that the only way to make it to the end of that road is with the help of the “I Am.”

What is the Purpose of Pain?

{By Alexandra Presley}

I saw a miracle happen last week. One plus one added up to be a thousand and I still don’t know how to explain it. I saw wounded people worshipping. I saw butterflies being born.

“A miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when

one plus one equals a thousand.”

– Frederick Buechner

And I almost didn’t go. In the weeks leading up to this, (it’s called the Lamplighter Guild), I had fully convinced myself to stay home. I had too much on my plate, I told myself. Actually, I was just discouraged. Things had not happened at all the way I thought they would this past year, and I was so deeply tired inside. And, even though I knew in my heart that it wasn’t true, I felt convinced that I was terribly alone. But, I have an amazing Mom and she convinced me to go.

I went. And I’m still pretty sure I stepped right through the wardrobe. There were one hundred students there. One hundred beautiful people with beautiful stories. And by the first evening, I had begun to realize that something wonderful was happening here. Then I heard it:

“Wounded to worship.”

I would hear that phrase over and over and over again for the next four days. What does it even mean?

I didn’t know then. I don’t really know now. But it caught me and wouldn’t let go.

Wounded to worship means that we do learn through pain, no matter how absurdly, awfully, paradoxical that is.

Pain numbs and dulls. How do you learn from something so callous, something that only takes and never gives? Well, sometimes our God uses dull stones, rather than sharp swords, to slay giants. That isn’t really an answer. It is a Truth, though.

Wounded to worship is the clay that was squashed down again and made into a better shape than before.

Wounded to worship means we keep singing.

Wounded to worship is being braver than we ever thought we were, as we’re held underwater until our lungs are empty and frantic. It also means that He will always drag us up again, before it is too late, where our mouths can gulp in all the air we need.

Wounded to worship means that the Maker of life loves me enough to hurt me deeply. It’s when your heart is stinging, that you can begin to hear His voice.

why is there pain in the world

This is not really something that can be marked out in words. Words just aren’t strong enough to pin it down. They can only keep dancing around it in hopes that we’ll eventually reach out and grab it for ourselves.

Flannery O’Connor once said that, “a life without sacrifice is abomination.” She knew sacrifice and she knew pain. She lived a life-long illness, her own body attacking itself from the inside out. She never married. She was alone, both in mind and in body, until she died, too young, at age 39. But this incredibly enduring woman spent every minute of her crumbling life trying to make something beautiful to leave behind. She wouldn’t have traded those sufferings away. They were her sacrifice.

“Grace changes us and change is painful,” she wrote.

It is painful, and sometimes it is grotesque. Sometimes grace whispers. Sometimes, though, it screams. Pain comes first. There is always pain before a child is born (U2, Yahweh). And during those times, “Lord, help me” is just as beautiful to God’s ears as “Hallelujah”.

The caterpillar has to almost-die before it gets to be a butterfly. The worst part is the very end, as it struggles, and it fights, and it seems certain that it will never get out.

But then the shell always does break open and we see the colors for the first time. And nothing that happened back there in the darkness hurts anymore.

I left that place fully convinced. Now, I am not only fully convinced of my weakness, I am also fully convinced that He is breaking me into something better. I am fully convinced that you see mighty things when you are in the valley (Chesterton). I am fully convinced that suffering turns into endurance, and that endurance turns into character, and that character turns into hope. I am fully convinced that a raw and vulnerable heart is a beautiful heart.

I’m fully convinced that miracles happen when hurting people hope on and and sing on.

“Oh, sing on, sing on

(Light up the darkness)

When your hope is gone

Sing on.”

(Andrew Peterson, Carry the Fire)

 

 

When Living a Saved Life Isn’t Safe

{By Yolanda Jackson}

As summertime settles in, I’ve been praying for many of my friends, including my sister, who are about to head out on foreign mission trips this summer. In my prayers for them I always ask that God would keep them safe so they can carry out his work in the country they are serving.

No sooner did I finish one prayer where God convicted me that safety is not always His plan for our lives.

safety and the christian life

The conviction should not have been so shocking for me, but it was. I want to share what God put on my heart about this particular conviction. I hope that it will encourage any of you InsideOut readers that are also heading out on mission for the Lord this summer.

When I was probably 7 or 8 years old I received my first Bible, it was one of those leather-bound Precious Moments Bibles. As of today, the binding is hanging by a couple feeble threads that I’m tempted to snip off so I can superglue the whole thing back together. Anyway, when I received it the first scripture I memorized was Psalm 91. Most Christians know that Psalm 91 is an often quoted Psalm about safety and the Lord’s protection; it is often referred to as the soldier’s prayer for those fellow members of the faith who are also in the armed forces.

As I memorized this Psalm I mistakenly believed that God would always keep me safe from the “bad things” in life.

As Psalm 91:9-10 says: “Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you.” And that is emphatically true, I believe that with my whole heart but I think I misunderstood this scripture to mean that nothing bad will ever happen to me.  This is not what the Psalmist means, what he means is that when we encounter danger (because we will encounter danger)  we can be certain of God’s presence whether to comfort us or to rescue us because we have made the presence of God our safe place, our refuge. There literally is no evil, no danger that can occur or “befall us” that the sovereign presence of God does not permeate.

As we practice the presence of God through spiritual disciplines like mediating on scripture, praying, and praising God in worship, we enter into the “dwelling place” of God.

He becomes our immediate safe place in times of trouble.

But I know that in my life, as well as in the lives of many faithful people in Scripture (e.g. Jesus, Paul, Esther, Job, Naomi, etc) that sometimes God allows us to encounter great tragedy and danger for purposes that we have yet to understand. This made me think that perhaps safety is a benefit of being in the presence of God, but not the destination for the people of God as we live in the world. One of my favorite passages of scripture, affectionately referred to as the Hall of Faith affirms this by saying:

“. . . and others were tortured . . . others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground, men of whom the world was not worthy.”

–Hebrews 11:35-38

Men of whom the world was not worthy . . .

This was the conviction I was given during my prayer for my friends going out on mission, it came through the above Hebrews passage.  I began to realize that I did not fully accept that the Christian life isn’t always going to be safe. God doesn’t promise me safety. God promises me deliverance and honor (Psalm 91:15). And most of all he promises me his presence. God kept Psalm 91 in the canon of Scripture because he knew we needed reassurance of his presence even in times when we’d have to encounter danger and endure.

This should be of great encouragement for us 21st century believers who live a world that has literally escaped from reason. A world where the threat of ISIS beheadings, the devastation of racial prejudice, the collapse of world economies, injustice in our justice systems, and the advanced schemes of satan that threaten foreign mission fields are all actual realities of our day.

Regardless, Psalm 91 assures us that our protection is found in Christ alone—in the truth of what Jesus has already done to reconcile us to himself on the cross.

Therefore, my goal as a Christian is not to lead a safe life.

Our goal as God’s people goal is not to protect ourselves from the dangers of the mission field, by packing ourselves tightly into a church building. Our goal is not to hide from using our spiritual gifts as we sit in our pews Sunday after Sunday, taking more notes. Our goal is not to get caught up making a living in the world instead of making a difference for the Kingdom. Our goal is not to keep our children so comfortable and protected that they don’t understand how to encounter a world that desperately needs to see the light of Christ in their hearts and minds.

And our goal is definitely not to reach the gates of Heaven safely and have Jesus say to us: what did you do with the one talent I gave you, and we respond “Oh that thing, I buried it—you know to keep it safe” (Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30).

No.

We are Easter people. We are the people of God. The idea of a personal, monotheistic God— the God who is there and has made Himself known is entrusted to Christians. It is expected of us to have great expectations and get our hands dirty protecting and furthering the interests of God and His people. After all, our God is great, it’s His wisdom that set the universe in motion, His hands that made human life, and it’s His love that’s keeping the stars apart!

Therefore, my purpose as a daughter of the King, our purpose as the elect of God is not to live safe lives but to live  . . . saved lives; lives that demonstrate the mystery of how a perfect Man, who being in very nature God, could shed His own precious blood to buy us back from slavery to sin and death.

Do not misunderstand me, it is not easy for me to say these things.

I want to be safe and I want you to be safe too, because living a saved life is sometimes risky, undignified, and dangerous.

But the fact is there’s something here that’s bigger than my life, bigger than your life—that’s cause of Christ. And you and I are called to know and to honor God and to make disciples of all nations. We are called to preach. To exhibit by our conduct a model of what we hold to be true and to somehow get out into the medium of human language the truth about God. To do this, we’ve got to be willing to do hard things and put ourselves out on that proverbial limb sometimes, requiring the necessity of divine intervention. For us to do less than that is to forsake our calling.  For us to do less than that is to pretend that The Great Commission will not also require great risks.

 “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure (or shall we say danger) … than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

God help us.

God help me and help my friends going into the mission field not to concern ourselves with whether peril or security lies ahead. Help us Lord to create with our lives only something which can be held to highest standard of Jesus Christ and to make His supreme worth the centerpiece of everything we create, whether safety or danger lies ahead. 

“Yes, LORD walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; for your name and your fame (not our comfort and safety) are the desire of our hearts.”

–Isaiah 26:8

The Art of Authentic Prayer

By Ellery Sadler Via Relevant Magazine

relevant magazine ellery sadler authentic prayer

Prayer is a strange and wonderful thing. It takes practice, and I’m still learning how it works—and I imagine it will be a life-long lesson.

I’ve been keeping a daily prayer journal for a year and five months now, and I’ve learned a lot about prayer by doing that. I’ve also learn a lot about myself.

Here are four things I’ve found that commonly sidetrack us from an effective, authentic prayer life.

[SEE MORE at Relevant Magazine …] 

9 Invaluable Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Life

{By Ellery Sadler}

Growing up with a fantastic dad changes your life. It changes the trajectory of your future. It’s almost Father’s Day, and in honor of my favorite man in the world, here are 9 of the lessons he’s taught me that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

the most important things my dad taught me

1. Attitude is Everything

One of the first pieces of advice I remember my dad giving me was, “If you have to clean, dance with the vacuum.” At the time, I just thought I had a super cool dad who could dance with cleaning tools, but now I realize his message was not so much about breaking out the dance moves as it was about attitude. Attitude changes everything. If you approach even menial or tedious tasks with an attitude of thankfulness, you can turn cleaning the house into a dance party. (It happens frequently at our house.)

2. Don’t Ever Try to Be Noticed for Your Generosity

My dad is one of the most giving people I’ve ever met, but he never talks about it. He has given so much away, and when people have tried to get his picture in the paper or his name on their donor list, he always refuses. Why? Because he believes that generosity doesn’t need recognition.

You know. God knows. That’s enough.

3. Climb Out of the Box. And Stay Out.

Don’t we all just love the box? I know I do. Comfort zones are so lovely and, well, comfortable. But my dad has been blowing comfort zones and stereotypes and boxes and preconceived notions out of the water for as long as I can remember. The discussions at our dinner table are sometimes shockingly deep or strangely counter-cultural or hilarious. Just plain hilarious. But that’s the way my dad thinks. He lives life from a different angle.

4. Your Mind is Your Money Maker

My dad has the soul of a visionary. He is an entrepreneur. A business builder. A mover and shaker. He’s always taught me and my sisters that our minds are our greatest asset. Don’t count on other people to figure out your life or give you the right job. Always, always do everything with excellence. Set yourself apart by doing more than just your part. Use your brain. And make your brain make money for you. He always says that you want a job that uses your mind as your skill, because your mind can always learn and grow and (in the immortal words of Taylor Swift) it never goes out of style.

5. Adventures Come To Those Who Make Them

My dad is the king of making adventures. That could mean making a raft out of tree trunks when we were little (where did those spare tree trunks come from anyway?) or riding semi-wild horses through the mountains of Colorado (which could be part of the reason I don’t love horses) or ‘purposefully’ getting lost in a maze of Venetian alleys (why do some people hang little witches over their doors?). Don’t wait for adventure to come to you, go out and find it. Or make it happen right where you are.   

6. Money Is Meant to Be Spent – Don’t Hold Onto it Too Tightly

While as I child, I did (and maybe occasionally still do) use this as an excuse for the money burning a hole in my pocket, the principle is very true. Anything you hold onto too tightly will own you, be it money or career or status or popularity. Money has a funny way of changing people, of controlling them. So never hold onto it too tightly. Keep it in the flow. Keep it moving. It is meant to be invested and given away and spent, not hoarded.

7. Don’t Be Afraid Of Thinking

Our world is so completely drowned in noise and inundated with nice, easy to understand sound bites of information, we forget to think for ourselves. One of the most valuable lessons my dad has taught me is to use my brain. Like, actually use it. Process information. Analyze details. Look at the big picture. Think through things for yourself.

For some, this comes easy. Some people are just better at thinking, I guess. Once the TV is off and the questions are asked, for some people, it can be hard to actually think. But your brain is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. So practice. Practice thinking.

8. A Man Needs to Be A Man

There is something special about having a dad that can fix literally anything, drive a boat like a boss, look fabulous in seersucker, build businesses from his brain, and be the kind of man you can both respect and adore. He’s shown me what a real man is by example. My dad has always made it clear that a man doesn’t have to fit a certain set of rules or have a certain amount of money in the bank to be a man – he just needs to be a real man. And what does that mean? It doesn’t have to do with looking like Captain America (although that is nice) or having a high power job or checking the right boxes.

My dad has taught me that a real man is a leader. He takes responsibility. He is the first one to show up and the last one to leave. He follows through. He is upfront and honest. He doesn’t back away from a challenge and if he gets into a mess, he handles it with integrity. He thinks of others first. He finds the humor in life and realizes life is about so much more than just him. He isn’t afraid to be himself. Most of all, he loves God and he loves others. That is a real man.

9. Go Big or Go Home

If there is one wonderful lesson I’ve learned growing up it is go big or go home. My dad has showed my sisters and me that it is good to dream big, and then turn those dreams into a reality. Want to start a business and become a millionaire? Go for it. Want to find a way to travel the world? Do it. Want to be president? Work for it. Want to change the world? You can.

Big ideas are only as good as the action you take to make them true.

So don’t be afraid to dream bigger than most people even think. As Leo Burnett said, “When you reach for the stars, and you may not quite get one, but you won’t get a handful of mud either.”

Also, laughter is good – very good. Never lose your sense of humor.

 

What has your dad taught you? Comment below!

 

 

 

The Big Reason Why Your Life Needs a Little Absurdity

{By Alexandra Presley}

“We will not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time.”

– T.S. Eliot

 

All of the best things in life are absurd.

It is absurd that we are born, that we live, that we die. We are very absurd to love, tremendously absurd to marry. Beauty is absurd, and so is goodness, and so is truth. It is absurdity to have babies and absurdity to love them and absurdity to watch them grow up. It is absurd that our hearts can be so empty of hope that they break or so full of laughter that we dance. It is absurd that God died, most absurd of all that He is alive again.

Life is absurd because we can’t explain any of it away. We are hilarious characters in a preposterous story about all the Goodness defeating all the Evil.

Our Author has quite the sense of humor and sometimes we don’t know how to handle that. It’s not entirely our fault, either, because the world would like nothing better than to make us all into cold-hearted cynics. Every sorrow, every pain, makes us a bit older inside and eats away at a bit more of our hope. It’s hard to look at life with a sense of wonder when our eyes are tired and our hearts are chilled. But don’t scoff.

Fairytales are more than true and everything will, in fact, end happily ever after.

why life is a mystery

Children are better able to handle mysteries. But we all get older. And too much focus on being terribly grown up and terribly smart gets us terribly lost. When we are grown up, we look for the concrete, the clear, the sure, and we discover, in bewilderment, that we cannot rationalize irrational things. We forget that life is absurd and that absurdity is mysterious, and that irrational things don’t make sense. Children are wise. They laugh rather than rationalize; they believe rather than explain.

why are fairytales so good

You will never ever rationalize the fact that He loved Jacob and hated Esau. You will never rationalize a dark that always turns into dawn or a world that will be good again. Our God chops down the forest, but He never leaves it dead. He breaks the stony hearts, but He binds up the hurting ones. He casts out the lofty pretenders, but He picks the wretched harlot up in His arms and makes her beautiful again.

In the midst of a large, wicked, noisy world, the tiniest baby life can hold inside of it a wonderfully gigantic piece of God’s kingdom. That is absurdity.

Our King hides Himself from us. There are some things so enormous that we cannot bear to know them yet, and so He puts us in a sheltered place and He comes by with His back toward us. But this turning away only shows how great His love really is. It’s great enough to protect us from Himself, from knowing too much. In the beginning, when the man and his wife lived in the perfect garden, their hearts were children’s hearts. They worked and played and loved. They were not ashamed to be naked. But too soon they were asked the most dangerous question in all of history: “Did God really say..?” And then as they scoffed at God and ate the fruit, they suddenly knew too much and their hearts grew heavy with sin. Innocence hid her face and was gone.

We have looked on and lived on in such darkness that now the pure light hurts our guilty eyes. But it is a holy pain. Stare straight into it and keep your eyes wide open. Don’t cower. Don’t wallow in your shame. You can’t be afraid to accept scandalous grace. You can’t be afraid that you will get too much or that you will not deserve it. You can’t rationalize. Instead hold out your hands and hold onto the things you’re given. Be brave enough to let Christ see your sin. Be brave enough to let Him put a new robe on your burdened shoulders and to let Him wash off your filthy feet. Be brave enough to not understand and to be joyful in your ignorance. Marvel and marvel again that He calls you His Beloved. That is absurdity.

We need to be strong enough to see the mysterious paradox of everything and to laugh our heads off.

For now, there is bewilderment and sin. But all will be made well. There will come a day when fat baby hands will drag serpents out of their holes. A day when we will be able to stand strong and happy and fearless with His face toward us. And the brilliance of His light will still hurt our eyes, but we will never want to look away. And we will realize that all we have ever searched for was there all along.

And when we see Him face to face we will suddenly understand everything for the very first time.

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